Power of Attorney – when is the right time?

A sad story in the news this week got me thinking.  Poor Kate Garraway, the well-known TV presenter whose husband is still in hospital fighting the lasting effects of coronavirus, is apparently struggling to manage their personal financial affairs because her husband did not have a Power of Attorney.  At 53, this is not at all unusual, but perhaps this case highlights the fact it is something we ought to consider when taking out a Will.

As the pandemic has forced us to realise lately, life is precarious. Someone’s health can, tragically, change overnight.  Accidents and illness can strike at any age. From catastrophic events like car accidents, to a deterioration of general health, or unpredictable and unprecedented events like the coronavirus pandemic. 

Whilst these things are unlikely to happen statistically, if they do, having a Power of Attorney in place can be worth its weight in gold and make an extremely difficult situation slightly easier. 

Just for the elderly, right?
No, not at all. It is vitally important not to regard a Lasting Power of Attorney as something just for the elderly.  By the time you actually need it, it is generally too late to arrange, as obviously you must have mental capacity to do this. Making a Power of Attorney is rather like having insurance; it makes no difference to anything right now, but if you come to need it, it’s already there.

So, what is a Power of Attorney?
Generally speaking, a Power of Attorney means appointing somebody you trust to handle your money, property, and decisions about your health, medical treatment, welfare and so on, should you become mentally incapable to do so yourself.

There are several types of Power of Attorney. Lasting Power of Attorney would be used where someone has lost capacity or just requires help to manage their financial affairs.

Lasting Power of Attorney – Valid when you lose mental capacity or no longer wish to be responsible for your affairs and covers management of your financial affairs or your future health and care.
Enduring Power of Attorney – These were replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney in 2007 but should still be valid. 
Ordinary Power of Attorney – Valid whilst you still have mental capacity but just want someone to look after your affairs for a temporary period e.g. during a hospital stay or holiday.

What happens if I don’t have one?
Without Power of Attorney in place, you may find yourself powerless to make decisions about your loved one’s health or financial affairs and even a number of more practical things like phone contracts, car insurance, mortgage repayments and so on. Not something you think about on a day-today basis but when you’re going through something like Kate Garraway is experiencing, it must make a dreadful situation even harder to cope with.

As well as dealing with financial information, it is important to have Power of Attorney covering your health and welfare.  Without this, should you later require long term care, your personal assets may be taken by the state to pay for your care.  This can potentially be prevented if someone has been given Power of Attorney and can demonstrate that the NHS or your local authority should be paying for your care instead.

Doesn’t my Will cover this type of thing?
No, unfortunately not. A Will protects your interests only after your death, a Lasting Power of Attorney protects your interests whilst you are still alive.  The two are commonly confused but have very different purposes.

What will it cost?
We offer Lasting Powers of Attorney from £500. If you also require a Will, Power of Attorney and Will packages are available from £750.  It’s worth remembering the cost of arranging a POA is very small in comparison to the thousands of pounds it may cost for a family member to have to act without one – not to mention the cost, delays and stress of having to go through the Court of Protection to apply for a Deputyship order. Details of our pricing are available here.

Get in touch
If you’d like to talk to us about making a Power of Attorney or a Will, you can contact us by email info@penderlaw.co.uk or call us on 01872 241408.